George Clooney in "Men Who Stare at Goats"

"Men Who Stare at Goats," one of the more successful Overture Films results.

Credit: Overture Films

Prestige films take a hit as Relativity acquires Overture Films

Can anyone fill the gap in the marketplace?

How many companies can Relativity Media run under its umbrella?  There may be no limit. The film financing company already has Rogue Pictures in its stable and produces films with studios all across Hollywood as well as a special distribution deal with Lionsgate.  Now, the entity has acquired Overture Films from Starz. 

Overture was launched four years ago under the auspices of former MGM head Chris McGurk as a new alternative to established specialty lables, but Starz became increasingly impatient with the mini-major even with such successes as "Men Who Stare At Goats," "The Visitor" and "Law Abiding Citizen."  According to a release from Relativity, Overture's 45 member marketing and distribution staff will stay in tact and now work on upcoming Relativity pictures.  What is unclear is whether the company will continue to own or use the Overture label or take over all operations of its Rogue label.  Currently, Universal Pictures markets and distributes Rogue films for a fee, but the partnership has had limited success since Relativity acquired Rogue early in 2009.

Overture's three upcoming releases are now more than safe for release in 2010.  In fact, "Let Me In," "Stone" and "Jack Goes Boating" may have more substantial resources behind their campaigns than before.  Overture is showcasing a special preview for the Matt Reeves' directed "Let Me In" tomorrow at San Diego Comic-Con. 

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Sylvester Stallone is inducted into the IGN Action Hero Hall of Fame

Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Steve Austin and Sylvester Stallone at the IGN and Lionsgate "Expendables" party Thursday night at Comic-Con 2010.

Credit: HitFix

Comic Con Nightlife: Sylvester Stallone, 'Green Hornet' and Metric

The parties don't stop in San Diego, they conflict

One of the more bizarre things about Comic-Con over the years is just how increasingly busy the party scene has become.   And like a major film festival or convention (ie, E3), the parties are just as much publicity events as anything else and Thursday was no exception.

Strangely scheduled almost all at the same time, the first event of the night was an early evening shindig to celebrate "The Green Hornet."  Set in a space near Petco Park to allow the inclusion of a number of cars from the Michel Gondry action flick, the reception found stars Seth Rogen (wow, has he gotten slim), "Inglourious Basterds" star Christoph Waltz and Gondry mingling with the press hoping to create good buzz for the January release.  "Hornet's" real test will be in Hall H on Friday when the picture debuts new footage for the masses.

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Jon Hamm in "The Town"

"Mad Men's" Jon Hamm in "The Town."

Credit: Warner Bros.

Is Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm's 'The Town' a sign Oscar is starting earlier this year?

For 2010, September may be the new October

While conventional wisdom says many studios will debut their awards season contenders at the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, most of those films don't hit even limited release until October.  In fact, a few years ago this pundit remembers many were wondering if Miramax had blown their nomination chances for "The Queen" by opening it as early as Oct. 6.  The facts though show that only six of the last 10 best picture winners opened in Nov. or Dec. It's pretty much a 50/50 prospect for any Oscar campaigner.  And now with 10 nominees set for the foreseeable future, giving your picture a little breathing room earlier in the year isn't that bad a strategy.

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Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon Levitt an Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from "inception"

Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon Levitt an Leonardo DiCaprio in a scene from "inception"

Credit: Warner Bros.

Four Reasons why 'Inception' will surprise you

Watch new clips from the Leonardo DiCaprio thriller

Director Christopher Nolan has been very selective about what materials are released regarding his new critically acclaimed thriller "Inception" and to be honest, you cant really fault him.  It's a film full of secrets and twists and Nolan is one filmmaker who doesn't want the audience spoiled before they head into the theater.  Luckily, he did find four scenes in his 2-hour opus that were deemed suitable to intrigue moviegoers into making "Inception" their first choice at the multiplex this weekend.  And, each clip artfully represents four reasons why this pundit thinks the potential Oscar contender will surprise you.

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Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix says "good bye" on the red carpet of the Nov. 2008 premiere of "Che."  Obviously, a press release wouldn't have helped the documentary.

Credit: AP Photo

Joaquin Phoenix's life as a hip-hop artist heading to theaters in 'I'm Not Here'

Casey Affleck directed documentary hits screens Sept. 10

Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix has made quite the spectacle of himself the past two years or so.  Surprising many, the star of "Gladiator" and "Walk the Line" claimed he had "retired" from acting and was intent on becoming a hip-hop artist in the fall of 2008.  It was unclear whether this was some sort of charade or a true artistic change of heart because Phoenix has always been a little off kilter to those who have worked with him.  Still, in the months that have followed he turned down numerous lucrative movie roles in order to work on his music.

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<p>&quot;Wicked&quot;&nbsp;will soon cast its spell in movie theaters, but who will shepherd the project?</p>

"Wicked" will soon cast its spell in movie theaters, but who will shepherd the project?

Will J.J. Abrams or Ryan Murphy really direct 'Wicked'?

'Super 8' and 'Glee' creators just two of the candidates under consideration

One property that Universal Pictures has been dying to get off the ground is a big screen adaptation of the hit musical "Wicked." However, with Broadway and touring grosses for the "Oz"-inspired musical still raking it in, producer Marc Platt has resisted all charms from Uni execs to give the green light over concerns a movie version could hurt the stage runs.  Now, he may have little choice in the matter.  With Disney actively developing "The Great and Powerful Oz" with Sam Raimi, Universal (an investor in the musical) and Platt will have to move forward quickly if they want to avoid being the second "Oz" film in theaters over the next few years.

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Julianne Moore talks about her role in The Kid Are All Right

Julianne Moore talks about her role in "The Kid Are All Right"

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo are happy 'The Kids Are All Right'

Acclaimed actors talk about the critically beloved new dramedy

One of the most popular films out of the Sundance Film Festival was Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids Are All Right."  Screening out of competition, the dramedy found a fierce bidding war with Focus Features picking up domestic rights and smartly deciding to release it in the summer when it can gain momentum and attract more attention as an alternative to the summer blockbusters.  Critics haven't abandoned "Kids" since Park City with raves coming from the New York Times, the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other major outlets.  The film is opening in limited release today, but should quickly expand across the country in the coming weeks.

This pundit has been a fan of "Kids" since attending the world premiere at Sundance and was thrilled to have the chance to sit down and talk with two of the film's stars, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. 

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Breckin Meyer and Ryan Philippe in "54"

The magic of "54" will no longer be part of the Walt Disney corporate family.  The travesty.

End of an era as Disney finally sells Miramax

Weinsteins lose their shot at getting their original company back

Appropriately timed on a busy entertainment news day to stay as under the radar as possible, the Walt Disney Company has finalized an agreement to sell its Miramax division to an investment group lead by Ronald Tutor and Colony Capital. The price of the sale is somewhere between $650-675 million, but effectively ends the 16-year relationship between the legendary indie label and the Disney corporation.  It also means the hopes of the company's original founders, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, to reacquire the mini-major are effectively dead. The company is not expected to officially change hands until the end of the month.

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Alice in Wonderland

New rules mean "Alice in Wonderland" doesn't have a shot in Best Animated Feature (not that it ever really did), but shouldn't have to worry about making the cut for Best Visual Effects.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

New Rules: Oscar makes intriguing changes to Visual Effects and Animation

Look for five nods in both categories as the Oscars move forward

In an increasing effort to clarify and bring a sense of fairness to the Visual Effects and Animation categories, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced three major rule changes today that will affect the nomination process for the 83rd Academy Awards.

Visual Effects has long been under the limit of just three nominees a year.  The contenders are selected through an exhaustive "bake-off" process that usually leaves one clear front runner and two also-rans that were just as worthy as some films not selected.  Now, five nominees will be the norm.  The last time that was possible was between 1977-79 and since 1996 there have only been three nominees.  This pundit's take is that it could make the category much more competitive in the long run which is always a good thing for a three-hour long (or more) awards show.

Also expanding the field, but not "officially" will be Best Animated Feature Film.  Previously, only submissions over 70 minutes long were considered "feature length" for animation.  This was odd since both feature film and documentary only had a 40 minute minimum.  By lowering the timeframe, the pool of animated submissions should increase and the "will there or won't there" concern over reaching 16 required contenders required for five nominations (as there earlier this year) will diminish.  This should end up providing more equal footing to the Animation Feature Film category without having to make five nominees mandatory (which saves the Academy from the potential embarrassment of having films such as "Hoodwinked" make the cut).

On the other hand, the final new rule is a bit perplexing.  Obviously reacting to concerns over motion capture films such as "A Christmas Carol" and "Monster House" being considered animated films, the Academy has added the following line to their rule regarding Best Animated Feature Film:

“An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of greater than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time.”

Somehow, that seems more confusing than before.  Including the "by itself" line doesn't mean motion capture is or isn't considered animation which is part of the problem.  And how does 75% or  60% or 70% of a film's animation technique determine wither it's considered animated or not?  Needless to say, expect more debate on future candidates in this category until there is a further qualification that all sides can get on board. Or, does this mean we just a few years away from Best Motion Capture Animated Feature Film?  Let's hope not.

The new rules changes were voted on by the Academy governors at their June 22nd meeting, but were just announced today.

What do you think of the new rules?

For the latest entertainment commentary and breaking news year round, follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory .

Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network"

Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network's" serious looking poster.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Oscar Watch: David Fincher's 'The Social Network' to open 2010 New York Film Festival

Prestigious slot another sign Sony believes Facebook movie is a contender

If the poster and teaser trailer weren't enough, any debate over whether Sony Pictures is positioning David Fincher's "The Social Network " as a potential Oscar contender was silenced today as the film was selected to open the 48th Annual New York Film Festival.

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, "Network" chronicles the rise of online powerhouse Facebook and the legal battle that ensued to control the company that went somewhat under the public radar. The film was written by Aaron Sorkin and produced by awards season regular Scott Rudin and Michael De Luca among others.  Kevin Spacey is also on board as an executive producer on the project, but does not appear in the film.

The premiere will take place at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on Friday, Sept. 24 and traditionally means the picture will not be screened at the preceding Telluride, Venice or Toronto Film Festivals earlier in the month. "The Social Network" opens nationwide on Oct. 1.

In a statement released today, Film Society of Lincoln Center's Selection Committee Chair and Program Chair Pena said, “It's exceptionally rare to discover a film that so powerfully captures the spirit of its time; The Social Network is such a film. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin are a director/writer team, like Lumet and Chayefsky before them, that make this movie not only of the moment, but reflective of larger cultural issues as well, and confirm their position at forefront of contemporary cinema."

The film's materials continue to position "Network" as a serious drama - a battle for the control of internet riches and multimedia power. This is strange considering the early buzz from those who have seen the film - and there are few - is about how funny it is.  Intriguing strategy to say the least, no doubt driven by Rudin's attentive Oscar-watching eye.

Sony Pictures also released another teaser trailer for the film in conjunction with the announcement.  You can watch it embedded below

For the latest entertainment commentary and breaking news year round, follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory .

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